Bristol’s First Congregational Church does good deeds around town


As diners ate their breakfast at Bristol Family Restaurant on Hope Street Sunday morning, a group of men, women and children appeared outside. Without warning, the group sprayed liquid on the large plate glass windows and quickly wiped it off, leaving the scene a little better off than they found it.

Across Bristol, similar random acts of kindness occurred simultaneously, an effort put forth by the First Congregational Church on High Street.

“Sometimes the church focuses on its needs of those inside the walls. They forget what’s going on outside the walls,” said Pastor Daniel Randall.

The theme for the day’s service was: “The church has left the building,” an application of the Book of Matthew — “as you do unto the least of me, you do unto me.”

Nearly 100 members of the congregation armed themselves with rakes, bags, brooms, paper towel, window cleaner and other tools fitting for a fall clean-up. After a brief blessing inside the church, they left in groups to practice what is preached inside their walls.

From litter patrol to window washing, the group broke into teams to scour the community. Although many businesses were closed on Sunday morning, places like Bristol Yoga Studio and Roberto’s Restaurant would find that when they did open for business, the view outside was much brighter.

Elsewhere, members of the church sat in a local laundromat, offering to pay to wash the loads of laundry that customers brought in. Elsewhere, the work was more laborious.

“This is pretty wonderful,” said Jonny Larason, farm manager at Coggeshall Farm.

When he first heard about the congregation’s plan to do a day of service, he asked if anyone would like to do a bit of farm work. In keeping with the methods used in the 19th century, tung oil is applied to the farm building’s window frames each year.

“It’s a bit of a chore,” Mr. Larason said. “When I asked Pastor Dan if anyone would like to help, he said ‘Yes. And what else do you have?’”

On Sunday, Mike and Kelly Servant carefully painted tung oil onto the window frames and casings of the buildings, while another group cleared heavy brush in an area that had become overgrown.

By just after noon, Pastor Dan and others emerged from the brush, bloodied by the thorns and thickets they had just cleared.

“I think it was a wonderful day of service,” Pastor Dan concluded.

Noting the importance of putting words into practice, Pastor Dan said that the church will leave the building again, with plans to make the day of service an annual event for the congregation and for the community.


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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.